Blackstone Chiefs Suggest A Private Equity Rebranding

Feb 1 2013 | 11:35am ET

Two top private equity players think the industry's brand may be a little worn and tattered—and ready for a replacement.

On separate conference calls, Blackstone Group CEO Stephen Schwarzman and President Hamilton James brought up the issues surrounding the name, "private equity." The brand took a beating during the financial crisis, but especially during last year's presidential campaign, which featured former p.e. executive Mitt Romney as the Republican challenger to President Barack Obama.

James said it was critical for the industry "to have a pristine reputation" in the current regulatory environment. "We need to be in an industry that's widely trusted."

James, half-seriously according to The New York Times, floated "clarity equity" as a possible name.

Schwarzman suggested that marketing was the key reason private equity needs to shed the bad reputation, and pointed to activist investors—formerly known, alongside private equity firms, as corporate raiders.

"We could actually learn something from these guys in terms of renaming themselves," Schwarzman said. "Private equity apparently doesn't have as attractive a marketing name as activists. Just the name change makes these guys better."

If their cohorts take up the rebranding challenge, it won't be the first time p.e. has undergone a marketing makeover: The once more-common term "leveraged buyout" fell by the wayside after the 1980s, when it became a buzzword for corporate greed and malfeasance.

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